CFA celebrate International Women’s Day with inclusion

May 4th, 2024CFA celebrate International Women’s Day with inclusion

The CFA's District 7 last month hosted an Inspire Inclusion event at the Victorian Emergency Management Training Centre's Central Highlands Campus near Ballan in honour of International Women’s Day.

The CFA’s District 7 last month hosted an Inspire Inclusion event at the Victorian Emergency Management Training Centre’s Central Highlands Campus near Ballan, in honour of International Women’s Day.

“The Inspire Inclusion Day was brilliant – it was fantastic to see other female volunteers from across the district come together and learn new firefighting techniques, test knowledge and skills, and get to know each other,” Barwon Heads Fire Brigade Volunteer Libby Burnett said.

“It didn’t matter what someone’s skill level or capability was, everyone got something out of it. I loved that non-operational volunteers got to try the various drills and participate in the training too.” 

With a full house, the day started with two phenomenal guest speakers. First up was Cherie O’Neill, VFLW Senior Coach – Essendon Football Club and Kangaroo Flat Fire Brigade member. Throughout her career, Cherie has been at the forefront of breaking ground, carving a space and place for herself and others to play football, initially in mens’ teams, and then leading other women into a new generation of women’s football as a coach. 

Brooke Bailey from DEECA shared her childhood dreams of firefighting, and the barriers she overcame along the way to make her dream a reality. She shared her journey from initially becoming a project firefighter, then her progress up the ranks managing crews on the fireground, training new general firefighters, deployments abroad and leading people from diverse backgrounds to develop and excel in emergency management. 

Both speakers shared a similar personal journey of the need to seek and create opportunities for yourself, building leadership skills and styles along the way and in doing so, carving their own path forward and helping others succeed.

They both embody the phrase ‘if you can’t see it, you can’t be it’, and are fantastic role models for anyone choosing a different path to the norm.  

Following the speaker presentations, the attendees were divided into groups and rotated through a number of training sessions.  

The newly created 4WD circuit was the hit of the day. The circuit provided a range of scenarios to test the limits of the drivers. There were a number of vehicles to choose from, including a manual medium tanker, an automatic tanker, and a number of field command vehicles.

The drivers took the vehicles through their paces along the circuit which included: gradient inclines of 10 per cent, 15 per cent and 20 per cent; moguls; up and over stairs; through a deep sandy path; along a boggy track; and through a water crossing. 

The circuit is interesting and diverse, yet short enough for a good rotation of drivers. 

Then there were a number of activities putting the wet stuff on the hot stuff at two of the hot fire props. Participants undertook sizing up, team drills, and choosing an approach to attack a tanker fuel leak and gas cylinders. A highlight was the five-person fog attack on the gas bullets.

The final two drills were to practise command and control of an incident and using fire extinguishers for a number of scenarios and a kitchen fire prop.  

Volunteer Libby Burnett reflected that the day wasn’t about what we can’t do, but instead was very much focused on “what do you want to do and how can we help you get there”. 

Assistant Chief Fire Officer Brendan Lawson reflected on the Inspire Inclusion event with enthusiasm. He noted how the day began with captivating talks from speakers.

“Their stories were powerful and engaging,” Brendan said, “and the afternoon sessions provided attendees with the opportunity to experience everything Central Highlands training has to offer, including hot fire props, off-road driving, and extinguishers”.  

The event served as a valuable networking opportunity, bringing together women and senior leaders from District 7 to discuss ideas and foster connections in an inclusive environment.

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